A duality so big they had to put it in two galleries | Art Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

A duality so big they had to put it in two galleries 

LUMA and Intuit's "Heaven + Hell"

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click to enlarge Boogerman (Devil Figure) by Earnest Patton
  • Boogerman (Devil Figure) by Earnest Patton

Art inspired by the great Christian duality should be as grand as possible, or what's a heaven (and hell) for? And so the biggest pieces in "Heaven + Hell"—a show that sprawls across two galleries, the Loyola University Museum of Art and Intuit—are a couple of 9-by-12-foot paintings by William Thomas Thompson, depicting the titular concepts. On display at LUMA along with other on-high artifacts, Thompson's Heaven features so much white paint and so many radiating lines that you'd be forgiven for thinking it's lit from behind. The thing envelops you. Thompson's Hell has a big red pit and a spewing volcano and hangs at Intuit.

The bifurcated exhibit comprises painting and sculpture by outsider artists, many from the south. One of the standouts is the late Georgia preacher Howard Finster. His work is surpassingly lovely—particularly the freestanding Heaven's Mailbox #2,192 (at LUMA), in which he urges his audience toward heaven by any means (of transportation) necessary: a toy train springs from the mouth of the box, and airplanes are painted on its sides. This piece, like many in the show, has exhortative text scrawled on it: air mail from worlds beyond bag drop who will explain the contents? who will read the language.

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